Friday, October 21, 2016
We Are All Doomed!
Americans line up, spend time and money, waiting for the football game, the rock concert or the blockbuster movie to begin, glued to their smartphones that they bought at Walmart with a credit card, using Facebook that is supported by advertising to gripe to their friends about how big business and the rich are ruining their lives; and they don’t see any connection. No, all these rich people, most of whom got us to freely give them our money by providing goods and services and entertainment that we value, should now be forced by the government through taxes to give it back to us in the form of government services. That’s what we have been manipulated into believing is the definition of fair and just.
Many Americans hear in church on Sunday that “suffering” is being beaten and nailed to a cross to die in the hot sun. They wake up Monday thinking suffering is having a minor backache, and take the pills promising fast, all-day relief. They show no sense of proportion. They go on to ignore the fact that their achy body could stem from being overweight and out of shape, and that exercise might be a better long-term solution. But being too busy is a good excuse to skip the exercise and healthy eating. They also don’t see the connection between how they deal with their physical health and their financial problems.
Americans are never at a loss for things to protest or be offended by. If you try to tell them to get a grip or man up (which is, in itself, offensive) you are accused of being an intolerant hater. But toleration in the extreme is the same as enabling, and objecting to something out of a sincere desire to lead someone away from destructive behavior is not hateful. When a pharmacy chain refuses to sell cigarettes, no one accuses them of hating smokers. Having some things you don’t approve of and don’t condone used to be called having standards, now it's called lacking compassion.
And when nothing seems to be going right we turn to the government to fix it. But as of this writing the presidential election is winding down to a race between what the majority of Americans agree are the poorest candidates in recent memory. They are overwhelmingly seen as untrustworthy, while offering no positions and no vision. They are too busy accusing and insulting each other, mixing politics with comedy on late-night TV where hosts amuse us by messing up Trump’s hair or taking Clinton’s pulse. Leaders are supposed to be people we can look up to and admire, people with virtue, who are more interested in the good of the country than their egos and job security. When the Note 7 smartphone had battery problems, Samsung president admitted that it did not meet “the standard of excellence that you expect and deserve.” Should we demand a similar apology from the Republican and Democrat National Committees?
No. We have gotten exactly the kind of candidates we deserve! They are appealing to the very sense of victimhood we seem to thrive on. They will fight for us – assuming we can’t or won’t take care of ourselves, assuming that the odds are so stacked against us that only they can bail us out.
When I began writing these short essays almost five and a half years ago, my intention was to gather examples of how our behavior leads to the very consequences the media continues to brand as crises and epidemics. Now, more than 560 posts later, I am far from running out of examples. I don’t spend a lot of time searching for weird or exceptional examples. These are from mainstream news sources and usually national advertising. Common behaviors are taking America in the wrong direction and the trend continues. For the past 20 years we see the same mistakes, the same advertising lures and come-ons, the same political appeals, the same handwringing in Washington and on the news.
I feel like the prophet Jeremiah, who was thrown into a well for telling people what they didn’t want to hear. Unfortunately the truth is that behavior has consequences. Behavior is not improving. People are not learning from their mistakes and changing behavior, instead blaming predictable consequences on circumstances, government, political opponents, structural disadvantages, time crunch and distractions, bosses and teachers and authorities in general, big business and Wall Street.
When touring this country in the Nineteenth Century, Tocqueville was amazed by the success of the American experiment. He later wrote, “Liberty cannot be established without morality.” He often expressed morality as mores or habits of the heart, in other words right behavior. As our values and behavior deteriorate, our liberty slips away, the experiment fails and we are all doomed.